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Published: Friday, December 21, 2012, 7:10 p.m.

Commission recommends Spokane police reforms

SPOKANE -- Spokane Mayor David Condon says he'll ask voters in August to approve a tax increase to pay for reforms of the police department that were recommended by a special commission on the department's use of force.
The 26 recommendations released by the commission Thursday include equipping officers with body cameras and increasing the authority of the police ombudsman.
The Spokesman-Review reported that a tax increase would also pay for other improvements in the criminal justice system and fire department.
The Use of Force Commission was formed to recommend changes following the 2006 beating death of Otto Zehm at the hands of police.
The commission spent a year coming up with the draft report.
Commission chairman Earl Martin praised the skill and courage that officers bring to work every day, but suggested the department could improve everything from rewriting its mission statement to focusing training on defusing dangerous situations before deadly force is needed.
"Any great organization must be clear about what it stands for," Martin said. "This department needs to be clear about its values in all that it does."
The commission was formed in January to bring Condon ideas about how to address the issues laid bare by the federal investigation that resulted in the conviction of former Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. for the beating of Zehm, a mentally disabled janitor erroneously implicated in a possible theft. Zehm was beaten, shocked with a Taser and hog-tied by officers. He died a few days after his arrest in 2006.
While the review did not focus solely on the Zehm investigation, Martin said it would not have occurred without "that tragedy."
"The core purpose of our work is to avoid similar incidents in the future," he said.
Condon said he's fully committed to implementing as many commission recommendations as possible.
"We cannot let another tragedy like Otto Zehm happen again," Condon said. "This has been and will be my No. 1 priority."
Martin said the commission will hold two public comment hearings, on Jan. 16 and Jan. 30, before delivering the final report to Condon sometime in February.
The recommendations include:
• Rewrite the SPD mission statement.
• Affirm the de-escalation of potentially violent encounters as a primary goal of the department.
• Improve the use-of-force reporting system.
• Equip officers with body cameras.
• Give the police ombudsman the authority to open and conduct independent investigations into operations, actions or omissions by the SPD.
New police Chief Frank Straub said he welcomed the recommendations.
"I would agree with many of the statements that have been made," Straub said.
Information from: The Spokesman-Review,
Story tags » Spokane

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